About the Spirit

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This blog started out with "about me" in the title. My whole life has been "about me". I hope that the entries that I make will be about the Spirit and how He has changed my life because it has always been about Him and how He works through us.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Sleeping in a rowhouse

Sleeping in a three bedroom row-house with ten kids and two parents can get pretty cramped. I remember sleeping with four other brothers and sisters in one double bed in a very small bedroom. The three older kids slept at the head of the bed (up-top) while the two smaller kids slept at the bottom. That way the older kid's feet were in the younger ones faces all night. You know there were a lot of "rights of passage" in our family and this was one of them, as one kid grew and left home you moved up to the top of the bed. Of course when my oldest sister Alice decided that she would rather sleep on the sofa rather then in bed with four of her sisters (she was in her teens) one of the sisters was moved out of our bed and took her place and I being the oldest male moved to the top of the bed and no more smelly feet! Alice slept on the sofa (which my dad called a "teat) for years with her head on the arm of the sofa. Almost every morning she got up with a kink in her neck and went around groaning with her head slanted to one side. Mom would sneak up behind her and snap her head back to normal. Alice would let out this God-awful scream that you could hear down the block and then she would be alright. I don't think there was ever a time that I didn't have at least one of my brothers sleeping with me. To me a military bunk was heaven!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009



I’m having a very hard time dealing with Mar’s death. It was like losing a part of myself. I can not think of Mar without remembering our childhood together. As those memories coming flashing back I only see two people, Mar and me...

Mar was three years older then me. We had a sister, Susan, that was born between us but she died when she was five. So, Mar was the one that I looked up to, we were pals and as it is with pals we both laughed and cried together.

Our family had what you would call a “pecking order”. Everyone had to go through a time when it was their turn to do the tasks that the older kids no longer wanted to do and the younger kids were just to young to be able to do...but their turn was coming.

Mar and I were the ones that had to go out in the rain or snow looking for a store that sold a certain kind of cake or ice cream for dad or to go to the grocery store and buy things on credit even after the grocer told mom she couldn’t have any more credit. We would always yell “put it on the book” as we scurried for the door hoping that the grocer wouldn’t embarrass us in front of other customers that knew our family.

Mar and I would run away from home at least twice a month. Once we left early in the morning and walked for hours only to turn around and go home after it got dark...we were dismayed to find that no one knew we had left.

Once we were told that we had to clean the cellar. Now cleaning the cellar was like being sent to purgatory. We knew that we must have done something against God and humanity to be assigned to such a gruesome task. Our cellar was where mom put all the clothes that she got from Goodwill where she worked. She sorted clothes that people donated to the poor. Mom would take one of us to work with her for one day during the summer. She would sort through the clothes (mountains of them) and pick out stuff for us to wear during the coming school season. Sometimes we got to pick something that WE wanted to wear and I thought I was really cool going to school in old second world war uniform shirts and pants that I had to roll up to make them fit. Well, she would put the clothes in large laundry bags and bring them home and they would wind up in the basement. this went on for years and the basement was full of bags chuck full of clothes that were forgotten except for when my older sisters, who no longer lived at home, came by looking for clothes. They, and some of us still living at home, would go down the basement and start looking through the bags (mom called it “rooting”) and throw clothes all over the basement floor. After a while you couldn’t walk down there and so somebody...Mar and I had to clean it up. It was a nasty dirty, and dusty job (dirt floor) and me being allergic to dust was sneezing and crying the whole time. We found a surprise cleaning that basement once...fleas! It seems that our little mongrel dog wanted to contribute to our misery. We came out of the basement that day with a very itchy rash. Mom felt so bad that she treated us to a Tasty-Kate and Pepsi.

Once when mom and dad were going through one of their trial separations, mom moved out with us and we lived in an apartment over top a jewelry store. There were so many of us in that small place that mom would send Mar and me to Paterson Park every day. We left early in the morning with a lunch ( usually a peanut butter sandwich) and were told not to come back until supper time. there was a pond in the park and we spent all day watching people fish for Sunnies and feeding our sandwich to the minnows. In case any of you have been wondering why the pagoda meant so much to us it is because that is where we spend much of our time during the day. We would race each other up and down the stairs. We would sit on the top floor and look out over the park and make believe we lived in the country.

Yeah, Mar and I went through a lot together. Once we were left at home, only the two of us, and there was nothing to eat. So we fixed mayonnaise sandwiches but didn’t have anything but water to drink. We found something in the closet that we had seen dad put in his drink and decided to try it. It turned out to be alka-seltzer that we threw down the sink.

Mar changed my life. She knew that I was having problems at home with dad so she and her husband John spend a lot of time with me allowing me to visit as much as I wanted when Teresa was a baby. I was a sixteen year old kid taken out of school after an eighth grade education by my dad to find a job and give my pay to the family. Mar knew of my problems because Mar had gone through the same scenario. As a matter of fact that was one thing she regretted in her life not being able to read or write very well. John was a sailor and began telling me how being in the Navy changed his life. He convinced me that if I didn’t go out on my own I would fall into a routine where I would never leave the inner city. I decided to follow in his footsteps and joined the Navy. Thanks to Mar my life was changed.

I will miss Mar. She spent the last years of her life trying to get our family back together and it left a deep wound in her heart that never fully healed when she realized that it was not to be.

One day we will meet again, Mar, me and mom and dad, and all the family. We will meet in Love... a love which all of us have been searching for all these years. When through our Lord Jesus Christ all our sins will be forgiven and we will stand before the Father whom is pure Love and all the pain will be gone...

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Veterans Day 2009

Just got home from Jonnies school where he and I celebrated Veteran's Day together.

I arrived about ten minutes early and stood outside the classroom door as the kids inside looked at the door to see who was outside finally the teacher allowed for the kids to leave their chairs and they came to the door to welcome me. Jonnie looked a little shy as he greeted me and his teacher told him he could talk to me in the rear of the classroom as his classmates readied themselves for lunch. I took my commendation ribbons out of my pocket and asked Jon if he wanted to wear them. He jumped at the chance and stood real still as I pinned them to his 'Peterson' jersey. As we were walking out of his class he began to put his jacket on and I asked if he was gong outside and he explained that his class had recess right after lunch. Funny though, he didn't put his jacket fully on...he kept my ribbons exposed for everyone to see and his stature became very military as he held his chest out and tried to walk like he was marching. I had a wonderful lunch with a grandson who was truly impressed with his granddad and this made me very proud. I left my ribbons for him to wear all day and I gave him a picture of my ship to keep. I had a great day with my grandson and I thank everyone for allowing us to do this...
Oh, and Jon gave me a picture that he had drawn of my ship out of memory and it really does look like my ship. It's on the shelf with all my other Navy stuff.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Navy Education

I know, I know, it's been over a year since my last post. I truly don't know where the time went, but today is Veteran's Day so this is my day to say thanks to the Navy and thanks to those that served with me, who, in every meaning of the phrase 'changed my life'...
"Education"--- To my dad meant getting through the sixth grade, then leaving school getting a job and helping the family by giving your pay to him. It meant that now you will be treated as an adult, there was actually people that was going to listen to your opinion and you didn't have to go to bed with the kids anymore. It was a 'right of passage' you were going from childhood to adulthood and all you had to do was quit school which most kids, when they were sixteen, hated anyway so it wasn't really much of a decision.
"Education"---to my mom meant that you went until you either got tired of it or they threw you out. She more or less agreed with my dad on the other stuff.
"Education"---to me meant that I knew I needed it to get ahead but didn't know how to go about staying in school. It was tough. I knew I wasn't stupid because when I went from the sixth to the seventh grade I was placed in an advanced class and began taking courses that was to prepare me for college. I know you are probably laughing or chuckling to yourself but for me it was a major triumph, you see no one had ever finished junior high in my family let alone to even consider college. When I was sixteen and living with my sister I dreamed of becoming an astronomer. Then I moved back home and all those dreams came tumbling down. To make a very long story short, I was pulled out of school when I was in the eighth grade and put to work in a nearby department store. Yeah, that's right I was sixteen and in the eighth grade. I was very sick the first year I suppose to go to school and didn't go, then because my family moved to or three times a year I was kept back a few years. Anyway, I worked at the department store for about six months when they let me go. Dad was furious! Everyday he came home and asked me if I got a job and called me lazy and stupid for not getting one. This went on for months and it got so I was going to my older sister Mar's home and she and her husband Johnnie convinced me to join the Navy where I can be my own man. I took their advice but dad wouldn't hear of it. He was convinced once he thought he could get an allotment check he okayed it.
Whew...that was pretty long just to let you know how the Navy and my shipmates changed my life but thought it was important to see my mindset after I arrived on my ship.
After all the work of putting our ship back together we were finally nearing the time when we were going to to sea. One morning a list of sailors were read over the PA system to report to the hanger deck of the ship, and I was on the list, there were about twenty of us. We stood at attention as a Navy Ensign told us that we were the only sailors aboard that did not have a high school education. He told us that he had put all our names in to take the high school GED test and that we had six months to study and pass it or we were going to back to school because none of us were going to leave the Borie without a high school education and he was going to see to that...I took him seriously.
I bought a book titled "High School Subjects Self Taught" and started to study in earnest. I remember being at sea and trying to study on watch in the middle of the night. A young Ensign saw me and gave me the keys to his office (about five foot wide and maybe eight foot long) and told me that I could study there where I could little quiet...I was in heaven. I was having problem with two subjects however and the test date was getting closer and closer. The first of my worries was algebra and the answer to my Prayers came from a place where I least expected it...my shipmates! Just remember back when you were in your late teens (males) it was a macho world where you spent your waking hours proving your manhood. One night while I was on watch in the Caribbean Sea I was cussing like a sailor trying to figure out how X could possibly equal Y when one of the guys on watch asked me what I was so pissed off about. When I told him, he got all the guys on watch in our engine room and the forward engine to compete with one another in solving different algebra problems. As they were solving them they showed me how to do it and these guys, God bless them all, did this every night for a week until I finally understood. The next big problem was English. I had a friend who was a college grad, Ken Cybulsky, who helped me by giving me a very thick book on grammar which had a long list of words and the student was to take one word a day and use it in a sentence as much as possible during the day (definitions were also there) which I did with his help. The test came...and I with three others out of the twenty passed and I nor my shipmates couldn't be any prouder. I was on a roll now and thought that I could do anything and I could...I advanced in rate as fast as anyone could go and made second class in three and a half years and was told I would be a first class at four years if I stayed in the service.
I got out of the service and after a couple of no-where jobs I decided to join the Baltimore City Police Department and what was the first questions they asked?...do you have a high school education or GED? You must have either to be a cop. I thought back to all those nights with all those "macho" wonderful guys showing me how X can equal Y...

Saturday, November 22, 2008


I'll start this as I was leaving from the Baltimore-Washington International Airport. Like I've written in a previous blog I left Baltimore alone. No one was there to see me off because Dad was pissed off that I was leaving and no one crossed my Dad, so it was pretty lonely and lets just say that I was a more then a little apprehensive about my new life. All I knew at that time was that I needed a change, a change that would get me out of the slums, away from the no-where jobs and living from pay check to pay check. Also, I needed to find out who I was. Am I someone "different" that could change his station in life or am I just another slum kid just fooling himself and like my Dad said during our last conversation, only a kid thinking that I was becoming a man, a man that could change his life but will be rejected by the outside only to return to the slums to live out my life thinking of things that could have been?
I was scared to death and it would have been so easy just to turn around and run for home where my Dad, with a knowing smile, would have been so consoling as he plotted his next move to get me a job and start charging me rent just like he did with all my sisters. I had already had experience with that. I remembered my first job as a part time stock boy at Taubman's Department Store on Pratt Street. I made twenty five dollars every two weeks and Dad took twenty of it for "rent". I was fifteen years old. I had no problem with giving my money to my family but I knew that Dad was going to use it for gambling and didn't see why I had to pay for that. Thinking of the consequences of failing in my attempt to change my life spurred me on and I got on the plane. It was a jet which was unusual for 1961 and of course it was the first time I'd ever been on a plane. I remember thinking to myself, see your life's changing already. And change it did...

If I remember correctly it took three hours to get to Chicago and it was evening before we got to the Great Lakes Naval Training Center in Waukhegen, Illinois... Navy Boot Camp! After arriving I, along with about fifty other guys were herded into an auditorium were we were all sworn into the U.S. military plus we signed an Oath of Allegiance. After that we were given speeches by several high ranking Naval Officers advising us of the honor and integrity of the Navy plus we got a history of the battles that the Navy had won and the tragedies and lessons learned on the battles that were loss. After that it was getting close to taps so we were told to take all our valuables and place them under our pillows for safe keeping. We did as we were told and after reveille in the morning we found that someone had reached under our pillows and stole everything of value...so much for honor and integrity!

Our first full day in boot camp started with a great meal in a chow hall the size if Delaware. After that we got a sea bag and filled it with our first issue of Navy uniforms. We were taken into a hall where we were told to strip off our old clothes and put them in a box to be mailed home. We each had to stand in a three foot square box that was painted on the floor. We put on our Navy work blues for the first time but not for long. We went to the barber shop where we all got every inch of our hair shaved off. As we were leaving guys that had been in the Navy about a week before us began to call us boots. We were divided into companies about thirty sailors per company then each company was given a barracks. after we assigned barracks and "racks"(bunks) we were told to strip down to our scivies and wash all our new uniforms because the Navy believes that all new clothes are considered unclean. The hardest thing to get clean is the white hat. Soap gives it a dull color and you must keep washing and rinsing until it is as white as snow which can take all day.

The next several months was pure hell with getting up at f
our thirty in the morning for inspection which consisted of your uniform your hygiene and finally your barracks. Every morning one of us would be singled out to for being a scrounge and made to do fifty pushups in front of everyone. If the barracks was dirty everything was thrown out into the middle of the floor from your racks and lockers. Not just the sailor that did something wrong but EVERYONE'S locker and rack. During the day we went to class to learn the basics of Navy life, went to physical training, and marched or if we were out of formation ran everywhere we went.

I was just about finished my second month of basic when I got sick. We were drying our clothes in an indoor drying room and the temperature
was always about ninety degrees. I had just stepped in from the outside and the next thing I knew I woke up in the emergency room. I stayed in the hospital for a week and no one ever told me what was wrong. All I know is that when I left they wanted to draw some blood and took me in a room where about twenty sailors were getting blood drawn. The doctor took one look at me and waived the blood test. He told me that I was too under weight to take blood. I know that when I got to boot camp they took my weight and I weighed 112 lbs. when I left boot camp it was 130. Our final week in boot camp was called "service week". For the whole week we had to work at different areas of the base doing things that no one else wanted to do like working on the mess decks (kitchen). I'll never forget the day the gave us our assignments. Everyone in my company got the mess decks, except me. I was told that I was going to be the Master At Arms of the Reserve Battalion on the base. For the whole week I made coffee for the Officers in the morning and sat behind a desk as reserve boots camp into my office and had to salute me as they were given their assignments.

At first I was told that I would have to stay in boot
camp for another week to make up for the week I was sick, but they changed their minds and I graduated with my company.

I waited for my name to be called on our fin
al day in boot camp. We were being told where our first duty station was going to be and none of us had any idea as to where we were going. Guys were going all over the world on ships and land bases. My name came up and I was going to a mine sweeper base in Charleston South Carolina.

While I was in boot camp I took a battery of tests to discover what my strengths were and because they were in the engineering realm I was classified as a fireman apprentice.I was assigned to the refrigeration unit and spent the day repairing worn out electric motors from the sweepers. Note of interest: All mine sweepers had wooded hulls because most mines were magnetic. While I was in Charleston I took up karate but didn't get get to far because I was transferred.

There were several South Korean sweepers in port while I was there and there was a story going around the base concerning one of them. It seems that the Korean sailors went on liberty while they were in port and the next day the Charleston police showed up with a female. The female made a report that she was raped by one of the sailors and the police wanted to see all the sailors with the female to see if she could pick him out. All the sailors lined up and
the lady walked up to one and said "that's him!" The police wanted to take the sailor in custody but the Korean Captain refused and asked the police to leave his ship. The police left the ship and the ship immediately left port and went to sea. Later that night the ship returned and the captain called the police back to the ship. When they got there the captain showed them the dead body of the accused sailor. They went to sea and hung him!

I really liked South Carolina. It was close to Florida and there were times when I took weekend excursions to the beaches. But, surprise, surprise! I got transfer orders. I was being transferred to Norfolk, Virginia aboard the USS-Borie which is moored in the Portsmouth Naval Station. I had two weeks to get there and went home and told everyone the good news. I was going aboard a ship and I would be closer to home.

After my leave I reported to the base commander directed me and one other sailor to the pier where the Borie was located. We were excited to get to the ship where we were sure we would be spending the next three and a half years.

I was shocked as I stood on the pier looking at my ship. The other sailor an
d myself dropped our seabags and stared at the ship. It didn't look like a ship. Everything from the main deck and above were gone. Everything was taken off to either be refurbished or replaced. The ship was going through what the Navy calls a FRAM which stands for Fleet Rehabilitation and Modernization. She all new equipment and a flight deck.

There were a bunch of sailors aboard the ship yelling at us, welcoming us aboard and asking us where we were from. ect. We could hear the ding, ding, ding of the crane as it headed toward us on it's tracks as it took some old parts off the ship. As it neared the sailors screamed even louder then suddenly they burst out laughing and returned to work completely ignoring us. We turned to pick up our seabags and found that the crane had run over the other sailor's seabag cutting it completely in half. The picture at the right is the Borie in drydock as she was getting
her hull painted. The Borie spent most of her time during repair in drydock. Click on the picture for a better view. Notice the big cranes on either side of the dock and the gang plank that we had to go up and down all day everyday until she was seaworthy. I spent most of my time as a fire watch watching the welders and making sure the sparks didn't cause a fire. After that I was assigned to the aft engine room and helped as machinists reconnected all the pumps and engine. There were yard workers that lagged all the piping with asbestos as all the rest of us were working of the power plant. Asbestos was in the air everywhere and to this day I don't know why I didn't get cancer, it was on everyone.
I'll continue this with a new entry called the USS Borie DD-704

USS Borie DD-704

After about six months in Portsmouth we finally went to sea in I think it was June 1962. Our first "cruise" was with the families of all the sailors aboard. We just took a short trip around the harbor. The water was as calm as it could be and resembled a table top as we dropped the last mooring line in the water and the captain ordered all ahead one third. We weren't out five minutes and I got sea sick. I was so sick...I didn't think I would ever be able to sail and that's all I wanted to do. I didn't realize at the time that the Navy didn't care how my tummy was feeling, I was going to sea even if I had to puke my way across the Atlantic.

After about a week of taking on stores (food) and ammo we headed for Guantanamo (Gitmo) for what the Navy cal
ls a "shake down" cruise. Which in civilian terms means that we were going to go through a lot of training with little sleep in the heat of the Caribbean in the middle of summer. I didn't think it was going to be hard but it was like going through boot camp again. This time however, it was a lot of "what ifs" training...what if the ship was sinking, what would you do? what if the engine room took a torpedo what would you do? That kind of stuff. Most of the old salts knew what was going on and it didn't take us long to learn what our jobs were during war. I was very disheartening however when you go through all that training and a wisened sailor who fought in the second world war says that most destroyers (tincans) sank within a minute of being struck by a bomb and if a torpedo struck the engine room you had better make sure your life insurance was caught up because you will never make it out alive. Preparing for a nuclear attack was the worst. The engine rooms were already 120 degrees and you had to shut off all the vents. We took salts tablets to keep from dehydrating and some of us passed out and had to be dragged topside to get fresh air.

We spent some time shooting our five inch guns at targets that were painted on an island. They never told us when they were going to shoot them off so we were taken by surprise and didn't have time to protect our ears. Some of us lost hearing for several minutes which led to hearing loss later in life.

After getting all that training we headed h
ome to Norfolk were we all went on leave before leaving for the Mediterranean Sea. I was looking forward to the cruise except for the rough seas. Some of the guys told me that it could get so rough that the waves could get twenty feet high and I, who gets sea sick standing of a pier, wasn't looking forward to it.

We were a part of a fleet that was leaving Norfolk and I'm not sure how many ships were in the fleet but I know it was over fifty. I was told it takes seven days to get across the Atlantic. After we were out for a couple of days I became a little apprehensive knowing that we were out there alone and had to depend on each other. We learned what it meant to have someone depend on you and sometimes with their very survival. I was standing on the main deck one day looking over the side when one of the older guys came up to me and said "don't worry we're only two miles from land...straight down!" Yeah, that made me feel just great.

Anyway, the thing that I fearing the most... a storm at sea, struck about five days out. It was a hurricane. It lasted for days. The ship was taking unbelievable rolls and had us literally walking on the bulkheads (walls) and trussing (tying) ourselves into our racks where we trying to get some rest. The old salts had a ball with this. Most of them weren't sick and would walk by you eating something that smelled and looked bad or would send the younger guys to the bilges to find out how high the water was. Once you saw and heard that water slouching from one side of the ship to the other you got sick all over again. Some of us were actually carrying a bucket around with us. You couldn't go outside because the ship was under water most of the time. Lines were strung outside so that the guys that had to could get around by hanging on to the line. Funny thing is we never saw another ship during the storm and the waves were something that you wouldn't think was possible. The storm followed us across the Atlantic and we never had any relief until we sailed through the Straights of Gibraltar. I'll never forget that morning. It went from violent seas to calm in a matter of minutes. We were below decks and ran outside for the first time in a week. The sea was beautiful with all the ships on the horizon and dolphins jumping in and out of the waves that was left by our ship.

The Med cruise was wonderful. Here's a list of
some of the ports we visited:

Catragena, Spain

Naples, Italy

Cannes, France

Bormes, France

I could go on and on posting pictures of the beautiful ports we visited but if I do that this blog entry would five pages long.

Here are all the rest of the ports visited the summer of 1962:

Toulon, France............................................... Gulfe Juan, France
Corfu, Greece ..................................................Tarento, Italy
Rhodes, Greece................................................Beirut, Lebanon
Panza, Italy .....................................................Pompeii, Italy
Serento, Italy ..................................................Gaeta, Italy
Rome, Italy .....................................................Vatican City
Palma, Mallorca .............................................Rota, Spain
Karachi, Pakistan.......................................... Suda Bay, Crete
Lido, Italy ......................................................Venice, Italy
Port Said, Egypt .............................................Port Suez, Egypt
Aden, Saudi Arabia .......................................Patras, Greece
Portsmouth, England ....................................Copenhagen, Denmark
Kiel Canal, Germany .....................................Turku, Finland

After we came home in October 1962 we were only in port for several weeks when we were called to sea once more...this time maybe...to war!

My next entry will be titled The Cuban Missile Crisis